DUP blocked Theresa May's deal to break Brexit deadlock because it had 'far too much ambiguity'

'We only received written text late yesterday morning,” says Nigel Dodds, the party’s Westminster leader

Rob Merrick
Deputy Political Editor
Tuesday 05 December 2017 16:25 GMT
Nigel Dodds with his party leader, Arlene Foster
Nigel Dodds with his party leader, Arlene Foster (PA)

The Democratic Unionist Party says it blocked Theresa May’s deal to break the Brexit deadlock because it contained “far too much ambiguity”.

The party confirmed it did not receive the Prime Minister’s proposals to avoid a new hard Irish land border until they were about to be presented to EU officials in Brussels.

“Despite several briefings over the course of the last few weeks, we only received written text late yesterday morning,” said Nigel Dodds, the DUP’s Westminster leader.

The plans had “far too much ambiguity and didn't actually nail down the issue that needed to be nailed down,” he told a Commons press conference.

The explanation is certain to add to criticism of the Prime Minister for failing to win the backing of the DUP – her partners in Government – ahead of resuming negotiations in Brussels.

The proposed deal unravelled after Arlene Foster, the DUP leader, attacked a move “which separates Northern Ireland economically or politically from the rest of the United Kingdom”.

The party stamped on the UK's concession of "regulatory alignment" on both sides of the Irish border, to avoid customs checks and posts.

Ms May then interrupted her talks with Jean-Claude Juncker, the EU Commission President, to telephone Ms Foster. When she went back to the lunch, the agreement was off.

Keir Starmer, Labour’s Brexit spokesman, branded the U-turn an “embarrassment”, telling MPs: “It gives a whole new meaning to the phrase coalition of chaos.”

At the press conference, Mr Dodds partly blamed “delays caused by the Irish Government and the EU negotiating team” for the failure to keep the DUP informed

“Upon immediate receipt of that text, we indicated to senior Government representatives that it was clearly unacceptable in its current form,” he said.

And he added: “Text is important. Words are important. They really do matter.

"When we finally see text, that's when we make the decision - and clearly the text that we were shown very late yesterday morning did not translate what we had been told in general conversations into reality, because there was far too much ambiguity and it didn't actually nail down the issue that needed to be nailed down.”

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